La llorona (1933)

aka The Crying Woman
Article 3933 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-12-2012
Posting Date: 5-21-2012
Directed by Ramon Peon
Featuring Ramon Pereda, Virginia Zuri, Carlos Orellana
Country: Mexico
What it is: Ghost, curse and possession story

When their son reaches the age of four, a couple fears for his safety, since the family is under a curse that causes the oldest son of each generation to die on their fourth birthday. Will they be able to break the curse?

The print I saw of this movie is from the only known TV transmission in the last decade, and the print is in terrible shape, as it has bad sound and much of the dialogue is out of sync with the action. My problems were further enhanced by the fact that it is in unsubtitled Spanish, but fortunately, I found a decent plot description that gave me enough of a plot summary to help me along. Yet, despite the creakiness, there is a certain amount of visual flair and atmosphere to this early Mexican horror movie, and there are some eerie scenes of the ghost of the crying woman (the source of the curse) rising out of the bodies of the victims she possesses. Once again, I find myself wishing someone would take the trouble to restore the Mexican horror movies of the era; they seem to be of unusually high quality.

The Lift (1983)

THE LIFT (1983)
aka De lift
Article 3921 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-29-2012
Posting Date: 5-9-2012
Directed by Dick Maas
Featuring Huub Stapel, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Josine van Dalsum
Country: Netherlands
What it is: Technology run amuck!

When an elevator system’s erratic behavior begins causing the deaths of various people, a determined elevator repairman seeks to find the answer to the mystery…

I first encountered this movie on a video box at a store, in which the tagline “Take the stairs! Take the stairs! For God’s sake, take the stairs!” gave me the sense that this was one of the sillier horror concepts to come down the pike. It’s only if you think about it a bit that you realize the horror potential of an elevator is high, with the combination of claustrophobia and the possibility of plummeting to a painful death in the face of emotionless technology both coming into play. IMDB classifies the movie as a comedy (among other genres), but the English language dub that I saw wasn’t overtly comic; if it is a comedy, it’s done with a straight face and a lot of subtlety. The fairy dust that explains the behavior of the elevator system is a bit far-fetched, and the movie’s pace is a bit too leisurely. Nevertheless, the movie does generate a bit of quiet suspense, and though it’s no classic, it works a lot better than you think it would.

Little Red Riding Hood and Her Friends (1961)

aka Caperucita y sus tres amigos
Article 3909 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-17-2012
Posting Date: 4-27-2012
Directed by Roberto Rodriguez
Featuring Marcia Gracia, Manuel “Loco” Valdez, Santanon
Country: Mexico
What it is: The madness continues

The wolf, now working as a guard for the village, finds himself torn between his animal instincts and his desire to keep true to the pact he has made with the villagers. However, when one of the villagers plots against the wolf, he goes wild and becomes a threat to the village once more. Can Little Red Riding Hood save the day?

The Mexican LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD must have been quite popular; not only did it spawn two sequels, but the wolf and the skunk appeared independently in a non-series movie called THE QUEEN’S SWORDSMAN. Personally, I thought the original was a jarringly bizarre piece of insanity; this sequel is relatively sedate. Which is not to say that this movie doesn’t have some head-scratching moments of strangeness; it isn’t every day you get to see a movie where a skunk delouses a wolf. What surprised me is that it actually took off just where the first movie left off, with the wolf forgiven of his crimes and employed as a guard of the village. Furthermore, the movie actually seems to be story-driven, insomuch as it remains more or less focused on the story of the uneasy relationship between the wolf and the villagers; the original movie wanders all over the place. Granted, you still have to put up with the wolf and the skunk singing, but at least it balances this out with a scene where the wolf and the skunk each accuse each other of being a horrible singer (they’re both right). It could be argued that this is the better movie of these two, but, truth to tell, this one isn’t near as memorable as the first one. On the other hand, I still have the third movie of the series to contend with, called LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS. Something tells me that one is going to fly off the goofy meter.

Little Boy Blue and Pancho (1962)

aka Little Boy Blue, Paraiso escondido
Article 3825 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-24-2012
Posting Date: 2-3-2012
Directed by Mauricio de la Serna and Raphael J. Sevilla
Featuring Maria Elena Marques, Jorge Martinez de Hoyos, Luis Osorno Barona Jr.
Country: Mexico
What it is: A boy and his monkey

A Yucatan farm boy collects animals, but his favorite is a monkey named Pancho. When his father gets irritated by the monkey’s mischief, he gives it away to a beggar, who sells it to a couple of poachers. The boy undertakes a trek through the jungle to find his beloved monkey.

Here’s another K. Gordon Murray release of a Mexican children’s movie, but unlike most of the others I’ve seen, this is not a bizarre fantasy, but rather a straightforward adventure tale. It’s “The Motion Picture Guide” that has misidentified the movie as fantasy, but it’s not the first time I’ve questioned their genre classifications. The only content here that places it in the fantastic genres is more horror than fantasy; there’s a scene in a spooky old hacienda with a skeleton, and we see the skeleton’s head crawling on the ground, only to discover that there’s an animal under it. It is a bit creepy, but it’s only one scene, and it’s the only moment where the movie tries anything of this ilk. On its own terms, it’s passable, though it helps if you like animal footage; if not, there’s no point in looking for this one. There’s some adventure, a little action, a little tear-jerking, and lots of landscape. In my book, this is another false alarm.

Lila (1968)

LILA (1968)
aka Mantis in Lace
Article 3811 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-10-2012
Posting Date: 1-20-2012
Directed by William Rotsler
Featuring Susan Stewart, Steve Vincent, James Brand
Country: USA
What it is: Exploitation movie disguised as psycho killer movie

A topless dancer starts taking acid and has bad trips, during which she kills and dismembers her lovers. Police investigate.

I could say the plot is threadbare, but that would be missing the point; to make the plot more elaborate would have cut in on the extensive footage of topless dancers that fills up most of the running time of the movie. I saw it coming when I saw Harry Novak’s name during the opening credits. Our psycho kills with screwdrivers and a cleaver, usually yelling things like “keep away” while she’s having a bad trip. She’s not the sharpest pin in the sewing basket, but neither are the cops that are on her case. Those who love exploitation and lots of skin will like this one best; those who enjoy snatches of hilarious dialogue will also find a use for it. Other than that, the best thing I can say about this is that it has a modicum of wit. And remember – When you’re tripping on acid, you have to say “Oh, wow!” a lot. As far as I know, the title song was not a hit, neither in the short version or the extended album version that gets a lot airplay during the movie.

Love Me Deadly (1973)

Article 3797 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-27-2011
Posting Date: 1-6-2012
Directed by Jacques Lacerte
Featuring Mary Charlotte Wilcox, Lyle Waggoner, Christopher Stone
Country: USA
What it is: A love story, I guess

Because of her infatuation with her dead father, a woman can only have intimacy with the dead. In order to break her habit, she marries a man who resembles her father. But she continues her other life with a coven at a local mortuary. Can this ever work out?

From the moment the main character plants a passionate kiss on a corpse in the pre-credits sequence of this movie, you know it’s not fooling around, and if you’re looking for a movie to add to the list of the sickest movies ever made, here’s one that qualifies. And it does get pretty sick at times, and not always in the expected ways. What really comes across as jarring, given the subject matter of this movie, is the wealth of romantic musical montage in the movie. I’ve seen this happen to many movies from the early seventies, but I can’t think of a movie where it’s more out of place. Needless to say, this one isn’t for the faint of heart, and the easily offended (and maybe even those not so easily offended) will want to stay away. If the tastelessness isn’t reason enough, the worst problem with the movie is that once you see the whole premise set up, you know there’s only one way the movie is going to end, and you’ll see it coming long before it does. It is what it is. But at least someone has a happy ending.

Lorna… the Exorcist (1974)

aka Les possedees du diable
Article 3796 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-26-2011
Posting Date: 1-5-2012
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Pamela Stanford, Guy Delorme, Lina Romay
Country: France
What it is: Witch story, Franco style

A businessman’s career is made prosperous by a witch who demands that the man’s to-be-born daughter is given to her when she turns eighteen. Nineteen years later, the man has become reluctant to give up his daughter. What price will he pay?

Forget any reference to exorcists or exorcisms in the movie’s title; there’s none of that here; I suspect someone took the fact that the French title roughly translates as “possession of the devil” and figured that attaching the word “exorcist” to it was appropriate. And, given that the director was Jesus Franco, I would suspect that the movie would be more likely to be an exploration of Franco’s usual obsessions rather than any imitation of THE EXORCIST. Still, this is a surprisingly focused movie from Franco; it actually seems to have a plot, for one thing. Still, with Franco, the plot is bare bones enough so that he can fill things out with his obsessions, which, on top of the usual set of them, also seems to take in modern architecture and eye makeup here. It does get rather outrageous at times, especially in the sequences involving the wife’s death and the one in which Lorna seduces the daughter. Still, I think you really have to share Franco’s obsessions to be fully entertained by this; for one thing, I get bored of watching a naked woman thrash around on a bed a lot sooner than Franco does, and I find a lot of the reactions are so far over the top that they become silly. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one is a favorite among Francophiles.